MORE TIME DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Ah… the holiday season. Filled with great joy, family and feelings of love and gratitude. Sometimes, however, it is also filled with stress, feelings of being overwhelmed and stress. It seems we need another hour or a couple of hours in our days to get everything done. There is shopping, finding the perfect gift for people we discover we do not know as well as we thought we did. Often there is either travel, or preparing for the arrival of people who are traveling to see us. We have to shop and prepare meals considering everyone’s likes, food allergies and culture restrictions. Not only do we have all of these things to consider, but we also have our regular obligations of work, housecleaning and parenting as well.

Sadly, there is no way to extend the daily deadline beyond 24 hours. How then, can we gain more time during the holidays? The man above you might recognize, his name is Albert Einstein. world-famous physicist. He developed the theory of relativity. I found this hard to grasp when it came to time. How can time be relative? Is not an hour always 60 minutes?

I found the answer, and a great explanation on the theory of relativity in a most unlikely place. There is a home-improvement store here called Menards. On the bottom of all of their sales ads they have motivational sayings in real fine print. One fine day while pondering why I even live in a place where I would need a snow blower, I found the answer I was looking for. On the bottom of the page read “How long 3 minutes is depends on what side of the bathroom door you are on.” While I would love to claim credit for that great bit of wisdom I cannot.

How does this translate to the relativity of time, and more importantly, how can it help us gain more time during the holidays? Think of that situation if you will. Yes, it is odd that a self-improvement website will ask you to think of spending time in the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but sometimes that is when some of my greatest ideas come to me. Have you ever had to use the bathroom when somebody else is doing the same? Every second can seem like an eternity. If you are the person on the inside the time would certainly seem different, yet they are exactly the same amount of time.

That is the most poignant example I have seem, but doesn’t the same thing happen to us during the holidays? It seems when we have one more place to stop and it closes in a half an hour that is when we get into the line with the sweet little old lady paying for her cartload of groceries with change…of which she has to count out by hand. Wait, did she just loose count and have to begin again? How long have I been in this line? How about preparing meals. I have experienced this first hand. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean I actually prepared the meal. Watching Margie work so hard during the holidays to make sure everything is done at the same time, and that time being close to when our guests arrive is crazy. Especially when you have to consider everything cooks at a different rate.

You may be thinking this is great Neil, and I have spent part of my holiday time reading this article and other than a entertaining bathroom analogy, you haven’t told me a single thing I can do to help my holiday craziness. Fair enough. Let us explore a few simple things we can do that will not only help us make better use of our time, but take the stress out of the time that we do spend, allowing us to enjoy more of what this time of year is all about.

The most important thing that can change our holiday is focus. When we are stuck in the slowest line in the store, focusing on that can only raise our stress level and blood pressure. What if we chose that time to try and focus on what we have to be thankful for. During the holidays that is something we all can count on and is a great gift to give ourselves. Even just a distraction whether it be reading those informative magazines telling us what the royal family is doing, or where Elvis, who is really alive, is spending his Christmas. Try to find the most interesting or amusing headline. Think of a nice thing you can say to the cashier, who truly is under a great deal of stress themselves.

Another great thing we can do is think about the outcome we are striving for. Is the goal to provide a tasty and enjoyable meal our family can gather around and share the holiday? Then does it matter if the steamed vegetables end up being part of dessert or the gravy is not as smooth as we would like? Sure, it would be great if the meal was perfect, but that is not what the holidays are all about, and nobody will expect that. What if something goes terribly wrong? One year my aunt was supposed to watch a pot of soup that was baking as the rest of us went to pick up some other relatives. She…well…I am not sure what she did other than it wasn’t watch the soup. It burned and had to be thrown away. The entire pot tasted terrible, but there was other food and it is still a story we laugh about today.

That brings us to our last point, find ways to laugh. Nothing is that serious and it is often things that go wrong that make the funniest and most entertaining holiday memories. Find a way to laugh, it will make a great holiday gift to everyone you share the holiday with. In that vein of thinking, try finding ways to genuinely compliment as many people as you can. Know and understand each of us face unique holiday stress and all of us would appreciate some kind words.

Please feel free to share your holiday stress relieving ideas in the comments below. Working together we can make the holidays better for everyone.

HOW TO STAY HEALTHY THIS WINTER

This season there will be lots of focus on what to eat, wear and do to stay healthy. Winter(The season it is where I live) can be very cold with temperatures well below the freezing mark.

I recall as a young man my mother making sure I wore the warmest, and quite often the most ridiculous clothes I owned. This often called for what we can safely call a wardrobe adjustment before arriving at school.

I remember being fed chicken soup when I was feeling under the weather. I remember some of the great tasting children’s medicine I was given. How they think that tastes like bubble gum I’ll never know.

One area that was never mentioned was the importance of my thoughts and emotions on my health. We all know when we are stressed our physical body changes. When we are mad we breathe different, our blood pressure rises. When we are nervous our stomach can get quesy.

What we may not stop to consider is how this affects our immune system. The leading cause of both physical breakdown and aging in the body is stress. It also happens to be the leading cause of heart disease in the industrialized world.

This is why making sure we take care of ourselves and those we care about emotionally this holiday season is so important. It cannot only keep them from getting the cold or flu, but quite literally save their life. I can’t think of a better gift to give.

How can we make sure to help each other? Have patience when waiting on longer lines while shopping. Be extra nice to the person working at the store, especially if they seem extra stressed. Give relatives a call just to say hello and do everything in our power to spread the gift of joy and positivity during a season where it is most needed.

P.S. – my book A Happy Life for Busy People not only contains many tips for reducing stress during the holidays, it makes a great gift too!

We all serve a great purpose

Today a lot of us celebrate Christmas. If you are anything like me you are running around last minute looking for the perfect gift. Do you go wine? Gift cards? Coffee? There are a million different options! Still there is one perfect gift for any holiday.

That gift is the gift of help. Being the light in someone’s darkness. The gift of time, understanding and just listening are something that you can’t buy even if you are Bill Gates. It also makes you one of the most valuable people to have in anyone’s life. How valuable is a good friend who listens to you? To me I love gifts that people make and put their heart and soul in, but even better is the gift of time. Those wonderful souls who bring light to my world and make me smile are the gifts I treasure all year long.

So you want to make someone’s holiday? Call them up and ask how they’re doing. Give them time to really tell you. Shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. Give your time and money to your favorite charity. Be someone who always brings a smile to a room when you walk in, and to the souls of all you know. Share a smile. Share an encouraging word. Share love and respect with all this holiday season. Thank you and feel free to share this blog.

TRADITION VERSES GROWTH

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Tradition, i am a big fan. It ties us to people and things we love. It helps us honor the past and keep in our cultures alive. They give us something to look forward to. I have my own traditions that were both handed down to me and that I have started. Funny thing about traditions, sometimes they just seem to start themselves. My state fair going had me thinking of this. One year back in 1996 I decided that since the state  fair is something that makes me happy I will just go every day it is going on. I had not realized this would carry on for almost a decade now, but it has.

Here is the next question. What happens when tradition suddenly stands in the way of growth? I have been fortunate that through change in jobs, change in life companions and change in living conditions have all still allowed me to continue one of my favorite traditions. Still with all of the life changes I have went through there have been some traditions that have been lost. I know my life is poised to be better than it has ever been. Still there are things that I enjoyed that are no longer possible to do. For example, I used to work in a small community where they had this great little coffee shop I would go to on lunch. You get into these little routines and you really look forward to them. They had some gatherings I would always attend. Since switching to a different office due to downsizing I am unable to go to them. Also I met the fabulous lady in the picture above. Funny thing about other people, they come with their own traditions too. Now sometimes they don’t always work together either. So you are faced with both doing your separate traditions, which would limit your growth and experience together or forging new traditions and learning each others. Here is where the work is. It takes love, understanding and patience to make this work. Much like anything we discuss here, your state of mind and attitude about the situation will do the most in determining how the outcome will be.

Traditions are a great thing. Hang on to as many as you can. If you find yourself faced with deciding between being able to grow and celebrating a tradition it is time to ask yourself some serious questions. What was the tradition all about? Is there another way to still accomplish the same thing while adjusting to growth and change? Was the tradition tied to a person? Is it time to surrender that tradition to a memory and begin a new one? Often times if we think of what the purpose of our traditions were we can find new and healthier ways to accomplish the same thing. Find new traditions to start with the ones you care about that will bring all involved joy and good health.

GIVE IT UP!!

Why on earth in a blog about living a more rewarding life and persevering would you find a title like this? Yesterday we discussed Fat Tuesday and self-indulgence. Today we are going to look at Ash Wednesday. This is a Christian holiday that represents the start of lent. A period of fasting leading up to Easter. Whether or not you are Christian stay with me here. In a nutshell Ash Wednesday people give up something as a sign of sacrifice for their beliefs. Whether your beliefs are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim or you just believe in trying to create a better you and a better world, we can all be a part of this holiday. Now I have heard a large range of things people give up for lent. Sugary foods, coffee, alcohol, or even just the traditional meat on Fridays. I suggest we can take this a step further. Let us find something that pushes us to improve not just sacrifice. Try giving up listening to that negative voice in the back of your head. Give up junk food? How about giving up bad eating and try to take better care of the bodies we have been blessed with. How about trying to stay away from gossip? Try giving up saying anything negative about anyone including yourself? Traditionally lent last 40 days. Scientists say it takes anywhere from 21-30 days to create a new habit. So you will be well on your way even if you mess up once or twice. Perhaps we could spend today thinking of what we could ‘give up’ from our lives that would end up serving us and making our world a little better in the process. Whatever idea you come up with I suggest writing it down and taping it to your computer screen at work or your bathroom mirror. Somewhere you will receive a subtle reminder of what you are giving up from your life. If you mess up, just dust yourself off and get back on track. Then we can all celebrate together on Easter whether we are Christian or not. We will all have improved and rid our lives of something we are better off without.

GO AHEAD…INDULGE!

Today is traditionally the celebration of ‘Fat Tuesday’ or Mardi Gras in which people over indulge in plenty of vices before going into lent which starts tomorrow (more on that tomorrow). I am all for celebrating…well anything. I believe it is good for the soul and the more people and things you have to celebrate in your life the happier you will be. Another idea is the more ways you have to celebrate the better as well. Do not get me wrong, I am all for a night on the town. In fact lately I may have had one too many, but what if we could indulge in a different way? Instead of enjoying things of an alcoholic or carnal pleasure we focus on indulging ourselves in healthier pleasures? Use this day to spoil yourself completely. Do it in ways that will leave you feeling even more incredible the next day. Use that personal day at work you may have been saving for a rainy day. Treat yourself to that amazing but expensive coffee drink you may like. Take yourself to that pricey but healthy restaurant you’ve been meaning to try. Have a day at the spa. Get a massage. You deserve it. While we can often be critical of ourselves, especially those who are looking to improve themselves we also need a day to relax and recharge. Why not use the holiday all about self-indulgence to do just such a thing? If you still feel that you need a drink and wish to dance half-naked, well…I’m bartending tonight so feel free to stop on down!

BITTER OR BETTER?

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Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If you continuously compete with others you become bitter but if you continuously compete with yourself you become better”

A good quote that reminds us the only person we should try to be better than is the person we were yesterday. As the new year approaches it may be a good time to take stock of who we were this last year and who we would like to be in the coming year. Establishing a point A and a point B is a great starting point! The more honest we are with ourselves the easier it will be to decide what we need to do to become that kind of person we wish to be. My good is to make the major share of my income by the end of 2014 from writing. Obviously some of the things I have to do is search out new writing opportunities, practice my writing and marketing and work on improving both of them. I have also learned something else. What happens if I reached the end of 2014 and only 50% of my income is from writing? Have I failed? No. It is more than my current state. Earl Nightingale defined success as “The progressive realization of a worthy ideal” That means whenever we have decided on a worthy ideal or goal for our lives and are working toward it, we are a success. We are farther than 95% of everyone else. If you ask your neighbor what they want most answers are vague at best. “I want more money” or “I want a better job” So the better we clearly define the person we wish to become and begin to take determined action towards that end, the more likely we are to become a success. so take the time to do this very important step. Tonight get clear as to who you wish to become, then be honest with yourself as to where you are. It may be a touch painful, but you should be excited because the steps you must take to close the distance between Point A and Point B should be abundantly clear and a map of what you must do will be set before you.